/ Corrective action for polished holds

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LeeWood - on 04 Nov 2012
Excepting that in a watery environment, rock weathers rough, not smooth. Passage of rock-climbing footwear on routes is a uniquely human intervention, so apparently, we are responsible for deforming nature. This spoils the climbing experience.

So why don't we take corrective action? There are both chemical and mechanical means of abrading rock. Worst examples occur at the base of ovehanging walls, so the work-site would be accessible.

Isn't it that simple?
woolsack - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: You are almost making a case for dry toolers :)
Trangia - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

Maybe we should all carry kango hammers?

Al Evans on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Trangia: Nah, for limestone its dilute Hydrochloric acid.
Al Evans on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans:
"As said on here before , Tom Proctor experimented with hydrochloric acid on polished Stoney limestone holds. It worked well, a bit of a fizz and then just a dust left, brushed or blown off and the hold was pristine again. Unfortunately he got so much stick for it he abandoned the project."
saz_b - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: Ive seen plenty of routes where the rock is weathered smooth by water, particularly limestone. Think it depends more on what's in the rock, perhaps some geologists can help out?
cuppatea on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

Rather than chipping or scratching away at the rock wouldn't it be better to use layers of paint? Maybe the grippy floor paint they use in factories ..

The graffiti chap could do the painting, maybe different colours for hand and foot holds could be used as a way of attracting new people into the sport.
henwardian - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
> "As said on here before , Tom Proctor experimented with hydrochloric acid on polished Stoney limestone holds. It worked well, a bit of a fizz and then just a dust left, brushed or blown off and the hold was pristine again. Unfortunately he got so much stick for it he abandoned the project."

Very interesting idea. In purely practical terms, it sounds like it wouldn't be too bad, if certain safety precautions were taken (e.g. I'd like to see quite a large bucket of water emptied onto every few drops of acid when they've done their work). It's a pretty radical approach though and the climbing community in the UK is nothing if not rabidly traditional. So I can't see much chance that it would gain widespread acceptance. I'd love to hear an official BMC response to this solution though :D

I can imagine that on harder routes the holds are so small that this approach would be in danger of changing the difficulty of the route by changing the shape/size of the holds too much.

I think you'd have more chance just trying to get a few coal fired power stations built next to your favourite polished crags, import some shitty coal from china/USA and bobs your uncle ;)
Fraser on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

The best course of action is to climb elsewhere and not exacerbate the problem.
LeeWood - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Al Evans: Sounds like a good remedy, and surer in case of small holds.

Is the BMC there to encourage or discourage climbing? To make things less or more safe?
Ampthill - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

I've often thought about this. I think that removing man made polish from limestone holds with acid is a no brainer

But i'm sure that the collective we thrive on misery attitude of the UK climbing community will mean that it will never happen
Al Evans on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Ampthill:
> (In reply to LeeWood)
>
> I've often thought about this. I think that removing man made polish from limestone holds with acid is a no brainer

Why a no brainer, it works!
hoodmonkey - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Fraser:

This makes no sense to me; climb somewhere until it's wrecked (i.e. polished or sandy) and then object when people continue to climb there!

The damage we as climbers cause is not an on/off switch, it is continuous and happens over many years.

The idea that we can pick a venue, climb on it until we break it and then happily move elsewhere, whilst casting scorn on those who still climb at the "eroded" venue, is nonsense.
Ciro - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

Why would you want to take the polish off holds?
Trangia - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to Ciro:

Interesting comment. You see lots of folk actually polishing already polished holds when they look at it dubiously, put their toe on it, then proceed to "test it" by deliberately sliding their foot off it one or two times before going for it!
martinph78 on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to hoodmonkey: Have to agree.
Dave Perry - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:
Why not just chip another hold?
Calder - on 04 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: Typically human. Spoil something. Then splash chemicals all over it to spoil it, and the environment and ecosystems around it some more.
Morgan P - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Calder: If you spoil something then manage to turn it back to how it was prior to spoiling it, how is that second action also 'spoiling it'?
Ciro - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Morgan P:
> (In reply to Calder) If you spoil something then manage to turn it back to how it was prior to spoiling it, how is that second action also 'spoiling it'?

You do realise that the corrective actions people are talking about (puouring acid on) would remove more material, not replace the stuff that's been worn off, right?

By roughing up the surface again you'll make it easier to climb the route again for a while, but you'll speed up the overall rate of erosion, not slow it down.

Since nobody really answered before I'll ask again. Why do you want to "correct" polished holds? The character of a popular limestone route will change over time - some footholds will become polished making them harder to use, some sharp edges will become smoother making them easier to use, some holds will break off which could go either way depending on whether a good new hold is created in the process. The best corrective action for these changes is surely to just re-grade the route?
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Russell Lovett - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: Im sure when they banned climbing at the Avon Gorge, Bristol for a year or something, to carry out road works below the crag when they reopened it to climbing the acid rain had removed a lot of the polish from the areas you could not climb on. Maybe some of the older west country climbers could confirm this or is this just a urban myth.
Jonny2vests - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Russell Lovett:

There are similar tales of re-cleaned routes that had been lost to Ivy.
In reply to Russell Lovett:
> (In reply to LeeWood) Im sure when they banned climbing at the Avon Gorge, Bristol for a year or something, to carry out road works below the crag when they reopened it to climbing the acid rain had removed a lot of the polish from the areas you could not climb on. Maybe some of the older west country climbers could confirm this or is this just a urban myth.

It is true, the Central Buttress routes went from glassy to remarkably textured again. Whether it was acid rain, traffic pollution or just general weathering I couldn't say. Also I think the walls were closed for longer than a year - maybe even 5 - or my memory might be fading!


Chris
SGD - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs: One of my climbing partners mentioned the same thing when we were there a couple of weeks ago. He remembered doing some routes back in the 70's that were polished but when he repeated them after the closure he was amazed to find the rock had regained some of it texture.
jkarran - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

Why not just accept the polish? At least polished grit is generally hard and stable rather than the disintegrating sandy scoops you get where we've chipped through to the softer rock. As for the limestone, I personally think the polish adds something, many routes would be far less powerful on dull grey footholds.

jk
Calder - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:

So maybe a more sustainable and ecological option would be to work on a crag rotation system. It might even help keep some crags and routes clean up a bit.

Personally, I can't remember the last time a polished hold caused me a big problem. Well, I can - it was at Stoney recently, but that's probably got as much to do with the overall friction properties of the rock than the polish. But other than that, I see polish as a chance to hone my footwork, with the payback coming the next time I climb on something more grippy.
LeeWood - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Ciro: I was prompted to post after recently reading a route description to the effect 'classic route - used to be worth 3-stars but now polished'. That's the reason - most of us value good quality climbing.

When a route is first created, it is cleaned and managed to make it more desirable; the correction suggested here is of the same genre.

The problem I forsee in condoning corrective action is 'how would it be managed'. It's not every idle sunday that jo average wanders down to the crag with a bottle of HCl. The scale is huge and no-one's going to be paid for it; if it's handed over to 'us' at large the results will not be predictable/consistent. However, when a route is opened nothing is predictable - character is unknown but we're all content if a 3-star route emerges.

Maybe the emerging answer is sequenced (yr closure of all (limestone) crags; starting with Pen Trwyn ??

GrahamD - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

Improving holds is a crap idea. Its a licence for the incompetant to reduce climbs temporarily to their level and is only just short of chipping.

Who's to say what the original state of the rock was anyway? how much should be abraded away to make it 'nice' for a year or two before someone else decides to remove a bit more rock in the name of 'improvement'? Who's allowed to take an angle grinder or the acid to the rock in any case?
Calder - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: Please do not start with Pen Trywn! Start with something that doesn't affect a weak bumbly like me - Kilnsey for example........
LeeWood - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to GrahamD: Do you ever find the rock to be dusty, dirty, lichenous or moist? Would you refuse use of brush or chalkbag? Presume you never climb on bolted rock.
LeeWood - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood: The hypothetical is beginning to drown this topic; what is needed is some experimentation and a formula.

eg. apply 40% HCl with a brush, wait 30', rinse off and then workover with wire-brush

If the (ex.) 50g of resulting dust could be collected, the degree of wear would known.
Kemics - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:

That's really interesting about Avon de-polishing. Only because I climb there regularly and I'm always surprised about how unpolished it is. I always wondered how there could be such a discrepancy between its reputation for glass like polish and it's reality of largely good friction and unpolished holds (for limestone)
jkarran - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

> The hypothetical is beginning to drown this topic; what is needed is some experimentation and a formula.
> eg. apply 40% HCl with a brush, wait 30', rinse off and then workover with wire-brush
> If the (ex.) 50g of resulting dust could be collected, the degree of wear would known.

Don't be a dick. Trolling is one thing, encouraging people to go out playing with acid is another thing altogether.

Polished holds are a fact of life, dealing with them is part of learning to climb. If you really can't cope then there are plenty of great crags that don't see a climber from one month to the next.
jk
EeeByGum - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to cuppatea:

> Rather than chipping or scratching away at the rock wouldn't it be better to use layers of paint? Maybe the grippy floor paint they use in factories ..

Brilliant idea - and you could use different colours to signify different routes!
In reply to LeeWood:
> (In reply to LeeWood) The hypothetical is beginning to drown this topic; what is needed is some experimentation and a formula.
>
> eg. apply 40% HCl with a brush, wait 30', rinse off and then workover with wire-brush
>
> If the (ex.) 50g of resulting dust could be collected, the degree of wear would known.

If you think about it logically, the original roughness has been worn away to leave a polished hold. If you remove the polish with acid you aren't bringing back the original roughness. The new layer would polish double quick - deffo a law of diminishing returns at work here.

I have climbed at crags in France where a smear of sika has been put on the hold to increase their roughness - it works but it isn't pretty.


Chris
Ciro - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:
> (In reply to Ciro) I was prompted to post after recently reading a route description to the effect 'classic route - used to be worth 3-stars but now polished'. That's the reason - most of us value good quality climbing.
>
> When a route is first created, it is cleaned and managed to make it more desirable; the correction suggested here is of the same genre.
>
> The problem I forsee in condoning corrective action is 'how would it be managed'. It's not every idle sunday that jo average wanders down to the crag with a bottle of HCl. The scale is huge and no-one's going to be paid for it; if it's handed over to 'us' at large the results will not be predictable/consistent. However, when a route is opened nothing is predictable - character is unknown but we're all content if a 3-star route emerges.
>
> Maybe the emerging answer is sequenced (yr closure of all (limestone) crags; starting with Pen Trwyn ??

So that commenter thinks the polish spoils the route. What if I happen to think the polish was just a continuation of that initial "making more desirable" of the route, because I favour lines which require precise footwork - should I be allowed to come along with some grinding paste and "correct" the roughness again?
GrahamD - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to LeeWood:

> Do you ever find the rock to be dusty, dirty, lichenous or moist? Would you refuse use of brush or chalkbag? Presume you never climb on bolted rock.

Sorry whats your point ?
JDal - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to LeeWood)
> [...]
>
> If you think about it logically, the original roughness has been worn away to leave a polished hold. If you remove the polish with acid you aren't bringing back the original roughness. The new layer would polish double quick - deffo a law of diminishing returns at work here.
..
Not necessarily. It depends on the rock. I might agree for limestones & other fine-grained rocks but I'm not so sure about courser grained stuff like sandstones and granite. In fact I'm not even that sure about limestone. Part of the polish is surely just that - polish, a build up of chalk/rubber/grease filling in the pores and gaps between grains and evern putting a layer over the rock. Like resin in Font. If you remove this polish with a cleaner that doesn't dissolve any part of the rock you may get back to something resembling the original.

We tried this as an experiment in a dank quarry that was used for a training and the holds had become horrendously slippery. A judicious wash with patio cleaner and the place was back to the day after it was quarried. However it soon returned to it's former state.

And that, I think, is the real issue, unless something changes with the use of the rock then your wasting your energy cleaning it, and quite possibly damaging the it for no reason. It'll just return back to it's polished state.
Andy Say - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:
I was chatting to a mate who had just been up to Crummackdale after a lapse of many years - he commented that it seemed a lot less polished than it was 15/20 years back.

And for the acid as cure for polish discussion - vinegar works!
Calder - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Andy Say:
> (In reply to Chris Craggs)
> I was chatting to a mate who had just been up to Crummackdale after a lapse of many years - he commented that it seemed a lot less polished than it was 15/20 years back.

Maybe 20 years ago it was a lot let polished than he thought it was. I know that I wouldn't trust my memory over a period of time that long.
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Calder - on 05 Nov 2012
In reply to Chris Craggs:

This was part of my original point. It's just accelerated erosion.

The other thing is that many crags have important and sometimes even rare plants on them or near them. Sploshing acid willy nilly won't do them any good. This isn't to mention the ecosystem to which they belong - altering the pH value of what's in them even slightly could effect animals that eat them. etc. etc. etc.

It's just not a sensible road to go down.

And anyway, other than maybe aesthetically, polish really isn't that much of an issue.

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